5 facts you probably didn’t know about Outdoor Afro’s founder, CEO, public lands champion

She’s an awarded speaker, leader, and public lands champion. When Rue Mapp speaks, U.S. neighborhoods lean in a little bit closer to listen. Some start note taking. Others are ready to take local action. All in the name of strengthening relationships to outdoor recreation, conservation, and education. Her words of wisdom resonate with communities across the country. So in honor of “Women’s History Month,” we wanted to share more cool tidbits about our fearless founder, CEO, and author of “Nature Swagger.” Mapp has led Outdoor Afro, a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature, for the past 15 years now. An innovative accomplishment in itself. We thought you would really enjoy hearing about these fun facts tied to Outdoor Afro’s mission work – and discover the foundation to her continuous ability to change the narrative in nature through a Black joy and leadership lens.


Southern-nurtured, California-raised, Mapp cultivated early bonds with nature from both rural and coastal viewpoints as a kid. Her family migrated west from the Jim Crow South in search of greater economic opportunities in America. Her dad: a true outdoorsman from East Texas. Her mom: a consummate Southern belle and homesteader from Louisiana. The two would have made the quintessential couple in those wild west Spaghetti Western days. Her family settled in the Oakland Hills, giving Mapp (a first-generation Californian) instant admission into the world of coastal redwoods. She spent her weekends at the 14-acre family farm her father bought and transformed into the ultimate outdoor getaway. Fruit trees, a bountiful garden, a tennis court, swimming pool, fishing holes, and hunting trips were everyday childhood adventures. The family also raised cattle and pigs for provisions. “Everything the family wanted to do in nature was available on that ranch,” says Mapp. “Everyone could visit and spend time there. It became my template for Outdoor Afro, and what welcoming and hospitality meant.” Her family’s land became an open invitation for multigenerational joy, togetherness, creativity, rest, healing, discovery and wonder. 


On the family farm is where Mapp learned from the elders traditional techniques to fishing, cooking, and even designing her own doll clothes. Her mother was a seamstress, who taught Mapp the basics to sewing. Mapp’s first shot as a fashion designer happened in the ’90s. She owned San Francisco-based bridal shop Rulette Wear. While making bridal dresses, she started designing outdoor gear for her snowboarding friends. In 2021, she returned to her fashion drawing board. This time with more knowledge about the differences apparel can make for the Black outdoor community. That same year, she founded for-profit enterprise Outdoor Afro, Inc., and launched a hike collection in collaboration with outdoor retailer REI Co-op to bring more universal styles to outdoor spaces. The initial 22-piece collection included fleece pullovers, polo shirts, graphic T-shirts, trail pants, hiking leggings, and hiking boots to solve for fit, function, fashion, and accessibility. A mashup of iconic ’80s and ’90s silhouettes with modern accents, the collection considers the range of body shapes and explores a broader range of fit modeling, bold colors, and materials that work with textured hairstyles. 


For more than a decade, Mapp has been recognized with mounds of distinctions and awards. She won the international Bessie Awards in the JourneyWoman category by global lifestyle and travel brand Wanderful during 2023. Two years prior, AFAR titled her as its 2021 Travel Vanguard Award recipient. Two years after that, she received the 2019 National Geographic Fellow, Heinz Awards Honoree in the environment category, and National Wildlife Federation Communication Award recipient (received alongside President Bill Clinton). During 2018, University of California, Berkeley, honored Mapp with the Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement by Young Alumni. Go back two more years, and The Roots selected her as “one of the 100 most influential African Americans in the country” for the second time. Her first time making this particular list happened in 2012. That same year, Hidden Villa honored her with its Josephine and Frank Duveneck Humanitarian Award. Outdoor Retailer — North America’s largest outdoor industry trade show – awarded Mapp its 2013 Inspiration Award in the business category. One of her earliest acknowledgements came from the National Wildlife Federation, which named her Wildlife Champion in 2011.


Mapp is a mother, newly minted grandmother, and everyone’s favorite auntie. The visionary founded Outdoor Afro in 2009 when she was also raising three children. She made sure each participated alongside her in network events as she grew her brand. Mapp shared with digital media brand Fatherly in 2022 exactly “What the World’s Greatest Adventurers Teach Their Kids," which she still applies today with extensions of her family tree. She continues to introduce the possibilities in outdoor fun with friends and family. Emphasizing hospitality and belonging with every experience. Teaching the importance of taking ownership in local land, water, and wildlife. “My children also learned early that everyone has to work together to produce high-quality experiences in nature,” she told Fatherly. Through Outdoor Afro, she has paved the way for the organization’s selected and trained volunteer leaders to guide their neighborhoods in nature safely and sustainably. Mapp also has opened community and digital doors for volunteers – and thousands of nature lovers and new adventurers – to develop wilderness, recreation, and life-saving skills; access safe, appropriate gear and equipment; free or discounted access to private outdoor spaces; and acquire historical and civics information to take better care of the public and community spaces we all love.


A phenomenal cook, Mapp can whip up sweet-to-savory dishes by the campfire or in the kitchen. That finger-licking-good food. Interestingly, she spent two years in fine dining when she worked as a food server at Zuni Café in San Francisco, California, during her early 20s. Judy Rodgers, who owned Zuni Café at the time, was the protégé of Alice Waters – the owner of Chez Panisse and a MICHELIN-starred restaurant located in Berkeley, California. “Alice Waters is considered the mother of California cuisine,” said Mapp. “I found the work fascinating. Zuni Café had a menu that changed every day, twice a day. Working there helped me appreciate much of the food (soul food).” Primarily because that style reappeared on the restaurant menu and in mainstream American cuisine as part of the farm-to-table movement. Mapp still dines at Zuni Café to this day. One of the key pointers she learned from that job: the art of improvisation and flexibility with ingredients. On top of the value of using the freshest ingredients, including whole, minimally processed foods. At home, Mapp enjoys making gumbo and tomato sauce from scratch. When Mapp is cooking outdoors, she loves to prepare a large home-style breakfast – a pot of grits, bacon, eggs – over a stove or morning campfire. “It’s comforting to help folks wake up to the smells of a delicious breakfast,” she said. “The experience never disappoints.” Bonus tidbit: Mapp won a ribbon at the Alameda County Fair for her cornbread recipe. More about that morsel of delicious information another time.

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide organization. Outdoor Afro’s U.S. networks include nearly 100-plus volunteer leaders who guide nature activities in up to 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people annually. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people to the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Connect with @outdoorafro on social and visit outdoorafro.org to follow our year-round nature narratives.

Wanderers Welcome: Tracking winter wildlife at Upper Saco Valley Land Trust with Outdoor Afro’s ‘Frozen Chosen’

Crunch. Crack. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crack. Crunch. Crunch. The traction-spiked hiking boots shuffled at a potato chip chewing cadence. Oddly melodic as the animal tracking morning picked up pace. A warning from Outdoor Afro volunteer leader Mardi Fuller, 44, as she guided the March 2 New Hampshire winter experience: “Don’t consider moving to New England if you’re not a fan of winter,” the four-year leader said. “We have plenty of it throughout the year.” Winter sports to coincide as well: ice climbing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and mountaineering. All offered through Fuller’s Outdoor Afro Boston network. Community participants who sign up with Fuller are guaranteed innovative nature adventures with the diehard hiker. Sustainably and safely. During January 2021, Fuller became the first-known Black person to scale all 48 New Hampshire peaks – 4,000-footers – in the winter. See. In good hiking hands.

Annually, Outdoor Afro’s Northeast Region arranges area opportunities for cold-weather outings that help beat the “winter blues.” Recasting shorter days into celebrated, snowy moments with brand-new friends. “I’m a multitasker,” said Fuller. “The simple action of walking in the snow allows me to settle down and get into this meditative mind frame.” That Saturday, she exercised this form of nature medicine with three network frequenters – Xander Bennett, Keenan Augustus, and Thai Koenig (left to right in the above image with Fuller flanking the far right side). Better known as “The Frozen Chosen.” Together, the four toured the Chain of Ponds Community Forest Conservation Project. This soon-to-acquire property of Conway, New Hampshire’s Upper Saco Valley Land Trust blankets 625 acres. The land trust’s goal is to raise $1.3 million from local foundations, state grant makers, and individual contributions by November 2024 to purchase and permanently conserve the landscape.

Aerial view of Upper Saco Valley Land Trust's Chain of Ponds. Photo by Joe Klementovich.

Chain of Ponds covers an ecologically significant glacial trough valley in neighboring Madison, New Hampshire. Connected to its forestland and inland waters, the project features headwaters of Pequawket Brook and Silver Lake’s North Inlet. The valley itself includes roughly 110 acres of wetlands; 25 acres of cliff and talus slopes; glacial eskers; surface waters and wetlands; 300 acres of mapped aquifers; and approximately 4 miles of surface water frontage along several streams and ponds. A peerless outdoor playground. Once the purchase completes, the public can access newer sites for biking, paddling, hunting (white tail deer, ruffed grouse, and small game like rabbits), fishing (Eastern brook trout and pickerel), and winter hiking. And only 3 minutes away from Madison Elementary School, experiential learning abounds. Mike Morin, 43, served as the land trust’s conservation director and assured that Chain of Ponds would become a nature backyard to a lot of local families.

The 20-year land conservationist added: “This site will provide interpretative education, allow us to implement better forest health management practices back into the community, and continue to expand our mission that already includes conserving other forestlands, popular recreation areas, and working farmland." The land trust developed in 2000 as a grassroots initiative to preserve land for community enjoyment and education. Specifically in the watershed of the upper Saco River in both Maine and New Hampshire. The following year it gained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. Within a decade, the land trust preserved 38 land projects, doubling that number by 2019. To date, the trust has conserved more than 12,000 acres in its 11-town service area. Steadily advocating for local agriculture and water quality concerns as part of its mission work. Back at the Chain of Ponds site, the Frozen Chosen breathed in the 40-degree air (unseasonably warm for Northern New Hampshire in early March when 20 degrees is more likely) and trudged along an abandoned rail corridor.

Outdoor Afro community participants Xander Bennett (front) and Keenan Augustus make it a habit to join Fuller's Northeast network activities during the winter months. Photo by Joe Klementovich.

The track once carried traveling skiers from Boston to North Conway, said Morin. Part of the early 20th-century history of Gilded Age hotels like the Omni Mount Washington Resort and the beginning of the ski industry. A train stop to the left of the track brought the Outdoor Afro group to a beaver lodge on Cranberry Bog. Each whipped out their animal track pocket guides provided by the land trust’s Community Steward Carissa Milliman, 39. The former educator equipped the day’s guests with New Hampshire Fish and Game Department wildlife literature. “With this piece of land being so accessible, Chain of Ponds is a great place to connect with nature and find stillness,” said Milliman. Nothing matched the track patterns listed. The group tactfully circled and observed the conical-shaped beaver home. Then moved on. Two more ponds ahead: Blue Ponds and Mack Pond.

Chemical engineer Keenan Augustus, 31, advanced with excitement in his eyes. “You know,” he said with every microspiked step, “these types of activities with Outdoor Afro help me get back to our roots. Black people have always been travelers, explorers, and navigators.” Cold-weather comrade Xander Bennett nodded in agreement. Augustus has participated in Northeast network activities for almost two years now while Bennett entered his first year in 2024. Bennett’s introduction to Outdoor Afro started with an ice climbing event with Fuller earlier this year. Then, uphill skiing. “I previously approached the outdoors from individual activities,” said Bennett. “Mardi and Outdoor Afro have helped me gain the courage to get in this space through group experiences.” The win-win: learning new skills with folks who feel like family.

In Outdoor Afro's 'Year of Innovation," its volunteer leaders offer original network outings that range from animal tracking and foraging to mountaineering and snowshoeing. Photos by Joe Klementovich.

The Chain of Ponds camp took a break bankside for hot tea, snack bars, and more fellowshipping. Sharing favorable reactions to the property. Flashbacking to previous network fun. Already making new Outdoor Afro activity plans. The youngest of the Frozen Chosen, Thai Koenig, 24, dusted snow off her hiking pants, gathered her belongings, and started to lead the band back to the site entrance. But, wait! A scat IDing moment presented itself mid-trip. Was it a red fox? Bobcat? Coyote that traveled their route? The four couldn’t really figure it out from their wildlife scat cards. The majority leaned toward the red fox. Good guesses. “It’s so important to build community like Outdoor Afro does,” said Koenig, all smiles. “Our network is always happy. Mardi makes me feel comfortable and safe while trying something new.”

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide organization. Outdoor Afro’s U.S. networks include nearly 100-plus volunteer leaders who guide nature activities in up to 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people annually. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people to the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Connect with @outdoorafro on social and visit outdoorafro.org to follow our year-round nature narratives.

Outdoor Afro’s Georgia networks offer silver- and small-screen views to capture nature, Southern living

The future naturalist framed up the plant IDing scene with such fervor. Conviction. Even care. Every google-eyed expression and conductor hand gesture queued up plant life. As if it was taking center stage. His soft smile pulled community participants into the Lionel Hampton Greenway Trail. The old-growth storyline voice-overed by Southern hospitality. “So, this is actually turkey tail mushrooms,” said Outdoor Afro volunteer leader Dajawn Williams, 27, “and guess what? It’s edible.” “Edible!” One hiker blurted in the background with an unsure side eye. Williams’ grin deepened with a few promising head nods. Oohs and ahhs then bounced around the forest floor. Promptly, he waved the group of 23 local explorers into a direction of more shocking nature sights along their 2-mile urban wander. This Feb. 10 Black History Month activity taught Atlanta attendees how to recognize special species within their Outdoor Afro network and neighborhood greenspace. The experience also unearthed Black contributions connected to the nature preserve.

To that point, the greenway trail is named after former landowner and famous Black jazz musician Lionel Hampton. Hampton donated much of the right-of-way for the trail during 1993. Designed today for cycling, hiking, agritouring, and picnicking. The historic Black district and site on Atlanta’s west side features the most archaeologically significant Civil War trenches in the region. “This area’s infrastructure included a mill, cemetery for enslaved Black people, and a rock quarry,” said guest speaker, naturalist, and local historian James Tyler. “After the Civil War, Black farmers who lived south of Atlanta moved up to become railroad and mill workers.” Over time, these stories evolved into backdrops to what’s now designated as the “Hollywood of the South.” It’s been more than a decade that metro Atlanta’s mushrooming film and TV industry generated blockbuster momentum. Primarily because of the Peach State’s benevolent tax break.

Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO Rue Mapp posing in iconic Surfer Boy Pizza vanagon from Netflix series 'Stranger Things' filmed in Jackson, Georgia. Photo by Jenna Shea Photojournalism.

Major studios popped up and big-budget projects like “The Hunger Games,” “The Walking Dead,” and the Marvel franchise settled into their new Southern home. During 2022, Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” became the highest-grossing movie with a female superhero lead at the U.S. box office – the latest example of the high-earning films attracted to Georgia. In recent times, production opportunities have tapered off for some creatives, too. However, Gov. Brian P. Kemp reassured Georgians that the silver- and small-screen industry is forging ahead: “Georgia remains a global leader in film, TV, and streaming productions,” said Kemp in a Sept. 13, 2023, press release by the Georgia Film Office. “Those who benefit most from the significant growth we’ve seen in this industry over the past couple of decades are hardworking Georgians who fill the many behind-the-camera jobs that come with each project. That’s why we’ve worked hard to attract these and other opportunities for those who call the Peach State home.”


Last year, the state celebrated 50 years of the Georgia Film Office, a strategic post within the Georgia Department of Economic Development that helps mature Georgia's film, TV, and commercial production industries through marketing, scouting, and coordinating project needs. The office reported productions spent $4.1 billion in Georgia during fiscal year 2023. Between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, the state hosted 390 productions, represented by 31 feature films, 55 independent films, 40 commercials, 23 music videos, and 241 TV and episodic productions. Travel an hour and some change south into Middle Georgia where Outdoor Afro participants have the chance to explore newer rural trails, farm life, and film tours later this year. Williams’ next stop: Dauset Trails Nature Center in Jackson, Georgia – a 15-minute ride away from where Netflix's hit sci-fi drama series “Stranger Things” filmed. The nature center provides mountain and e-bike courses; backpacking and camping; and farmstead sightseeing.

Outdoor Afro volunteer leader Dajawn Williams storytells Georgia's ecosystem to Atlanta network participants during a BHM24 plant IDing activity. Photo by Jenna Shea Photojournalism.

Williams linked up with Outdoor Afro’s Founder and CEO Rue Mapp at the nature center. The two went on a site visit to reimagine what foraging, farming, and family-centric activities could look like for his network and others in the organization’s “Year of Innovation.” “I’m continually in awe of the natural resources found in our volunteer networks,” said Mapp. “To visit places like Dauset helps people discover opportunities to reconnect to nature close to home, and be inspired by the natural and human history you can always find in these places.” For 15 years now, Outdoor Afro has celebrated and inspired Black connections and leadership in nature across the United States. The national not-for-profit organization reconnects Black communities to outdoor conservation, recreation, and education through networks located in 60 cities and 32 states, including Washington, D.C. By way of more than 1,200 planned and hosted network activities, volunteer leaders like Williams reintroduce more than 60,000 people to the outdoors annually. “We’re on a journey to reach more rural and urban communities,” Mapp said. “Nature, travel, tourism, and the shows and movies we all grew up on are ways to imagine new connections.”

After Dauset Trails, a truck ride to downtown Jackson (the state’s outdoor capital) zapped Mapp into the make-believe town of Hawkins, Indiana, from the TV show “Stranger Things.” She toured real-life locations, replaying memorable scenes from the series’ Hawkins Library, back alley, and Radio Shack. The coolest Outdoor Afro clip of the day: Mapp propped with a pizza box and visor inside the iconic Surfer Boy Pizza vanagon, a.k.a. Pizzamobile. Headed back south on U.S. Hwy 23, a pitstop to Juliette, Georgia, revisited Cicely Tyson’s role in the 1991 comedy-drama “Fried Green Tomatoes.” Where the movie’s Whistle Stop Cafe is still open for business and serves Southern cuisine – most notably, of course, the menu’s crispy fried green tomatoes. Described in one word: De-lish! The final destination for Mapp’s agritourism and film-guided driving tour traveled 42 miles east along backcountry roads to Milledgeville, Georgia. The fourth capital of the state and where actress Julia Roberts’ character, Vivian, in “Pretty Woman” said she came from. 

Williams and Mapp scouting Dauset Trails Nature Center to identify new network adventures for rural communities to experience innovations in agriculture. Photo by Jenna Shea Photojournalism.

Mapp drove through camera-ready site Central State Hospital. Established in 1842, the campus became known as the “world’s largest mental institution” by the 1960s. It included more than 12,000 patients, 6,000 employees, and more than 8,000 acres of land. By 2010, the dilapidated complex closed. Four years later, “The Originals” (spin-off to The CW Network’s “The Vampire Diaries”) filmed episodes at the hospital. Interestingly, the eerie site still produces a pecan grove that attracts the community, schools, and families to year-round nature activities. “That’s the thing about nature,” said Reginal Black, 59, who joined the Feb. 10 Outdoor Afro plant IDing activity. Black relocated to Atlanta from California to live closer to family. “Nature ties us all back to our local histories and community stories,” he said. “Why I’ve been attending network events like this one with the organization and Rue since 2009.”


ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide organization. Outdoor Afro’s U.S. networks include nearly 100-plus volunteer leaders who guide nature activities in up to 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people annually. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people to the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Connect with @outdoorafro on social and visit outdoorafro.org to follow our year-round nature narratives.

Black History Month 2024: Outdoor Afro uplifts ag contributions of George Washington Carver

Outdoor Afro opens its “Year of Innovation” celebrating internationally recognized inventor, educator, and botanist George Washington Carver during Black History Month 2024. “Our organization encourages U.S. communities to reflect on your own connections to Black history – the heroes and trailblazers like Carver who are in your lives now and whose legacies continue to inspire and shape our collective journey,” said Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO Rue Mapp. Carver developed more than 300 commercial, industrial, and food products between the late 19th and early 20th centuries using the peanut. Many of the items he created are still used in nature today – by Outdoor Afro’s staff, team of volunteer leaders, and community participants across the United States. Earning the nickname “The Peanut Man” (although he didn’t invent peanut butter), Carver originated cooking oils, beverages, paper, soaps, cosmetics, dyes, paints/stains, and even medicines. He also released 44 nature bulletins that reported cultivation findings for farmers, recipes for housewives, and science information for teachers.


Carver originated the modern term “regenerative agriculture.” His care for farmers and farmland in America’s Black Belt Region achieved sustainable agriculture practices like crop rotation to restore nutrients into soil. He hurled into history books by becoming the first Black person to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in 1894. Researching fungal infections of soybean plants, he advanced his knowledge by identifying and treating plant diseases. He advanced his education by earning a Master of Agriculture two years later. Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama offered him a faculty position, which he held for the rest of his life. The university established an agricultural school with Carver leading an all-Black faculty. His classroom lessons put emphasis on ag students and Southern farmers learning how to implement conservation techniques that replenished crops and community farmland.

Just as Carver introduced rural producers and young scholars to new ways of tending the land, Outdoor Afro competitively selects and trains volunteer leaders annually who guide more than 60,000 people in U.S. communities through contemporary network activities. Reimagining activities like gardening, foraging, fishing, u-pick farming, and bird watching. Designed to strengthen relationships and stewardship of local land, water, and wildlife. In its 15th year, Outdoor Afro’s flagship Volunteer Leader Program prepares roughly 100 volunteer leaders to connect and reconnect Black people to nature. Each volunteer plans and hosts year-round adventures across the organization’s four regions: Midwest, Northeast, South, and West. Volunteers hold at least 12 network outings a year within their neighborhoods. Outdoor Afro includes 32 networks located in nearly 60 U.S. cities.


“As we embrace Black History Month at Outdoor Afro, it's important to recognize that celebrating the achievements of the Black American community is not confined to a single month as our monthly nature activities, programs, and campaigns show,” said Mapp. “It's woven into the fabric of everything we do. Every day. Throughout the year." Mapp added: “However, this designated time allows us to reflect on the journey and accomplishments of Black individuals across time and space, serving as a poignant reminder of both our progress and the boundless potential that lies ahead.” Carver’s story marks the organization’s third annual Black History Month digital storytelling series. This educational and social campaign helps bring awareness about then-and-now Black nature pioneers. Created for readers and followers to remember, learn from, and become inspired to create community impact as Carver did.

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide organization. Outdoor Afro’s U.S. networks include nearly 100-plus volunteer leaders who guide nature activities in up to 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people annually. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people to the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Connect with @outdoorafro on social and visit outdoorafro.org to follow our year-round nature narratives.

What’s new at Outdoor Afro in 2024? Creating community impact starts with these 8 digital ports of call

Can you believe it? Outdoor Afro has nurtured transformative experiences and connections in nature for 15 years now. One thing is for sure: Our national not-for-profit organization reached 2024's "Year of Innovation" because of you. Longstanding and new social followers, loyal supporters, volunteer leaders, community participants, and outdoor partners have contributed to Outdoor Afro's wildest nature dreams to literally come true. Take for instance our participation network. Outdoor Afro's popular, year-round events across U.S. communities inspire approximately 60,000 people to join us annually for customized outdoor activities – family reunion-style.

Then, there’s our swim program, Making Waves. We rounded out 2023 funding more than 1,000 kids and caregivers to learn water safety and basic swimming techniques. Life-saving skills. All thanks to program believers like you. We’ve even certified up to 20 volunteer leaders to guide kayak and canoe trips safely and sustainably within the past two years. Newer community participants are ready for playdates to discover and travel neighborhood waterways for educational enjoyment. That said, a new year means new opportunities to create community impact together. If you don’t know where exactly to start, that’s A-OK. Below are 8 digital ports to join our journey. No matter where you plug in, you’re automatically contributing to our mission work to celebrate and inspire Black connections and leadership in nature. Let’s get started:


Outdoor Afro spans 32 states, including Washington, D.C. Networks are in roughly 60 U.S. cities. Our networks are your instant access to forming new friendships while exploring nature in your neighborhood or surrounding community. Through Outdoor Afro networks, you can participate in everything from group hiking, biking, boating, fishing, foraging, skiing, and paddling. Locate your Outdoor Afro region (Midwest, Northeast, South, or West) using the link below. From there, you can sign up for in-person Meetup events happening monthly. Our selected and trained team of volunteer leaders curate and guide these network adventures. Through Meetup, volunteer leaders keep you posted about event details and upcoming activities. Also, join your network’s designated Facebook page to build community, and continue to learn where exploration awaits with family and friends. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.


We love when online guests pay us a visit. Stopping by outdoorafro.org helps you know exactly who we are, what we do in nature, and where we’re heading each year. As mentioned earlier, 2024 rings in our “Year of Innovation.” By clicking through our online home place, you will learn Outdoor Afro’s love story with nature, more about our Founder and CEO Rue Mapp, and the ones who work behind the scenes to ensure we’re fulfilling our mission. Our site also shares current partnerships, community programs, social media campaigns, and real-life stories that support our Black joy experiences taking place across neighborhoods nationwide. Have specific questions about our “why” in nature? Our site is your primary source to connect with the right digital resources. CLICK HERE TO KNOW OUR MISSION.


Nearly 170,000 Outdoor Afro followers like, comment, share, and take action from our social media updates and footage. Our almost daily dose of digital news, announcements, and achievements stem from your support. Our top social platforms include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and X (formerly known as Twitter). Continuing to celebrate Outdoor Afro’s nature narratives, our genuine content is an opportunity to participate in digital to in-person activities with us and stay on top of organizational developments. Our award-winning Marketing & Communications Department shares powerful visuals and videos that offer fun gateways into outdoor recreation, conservation, and education with ease. CLICK HERE TO CONTACT US.


By signing up for Outdoor Afro’s monthly eNewsletters, you’re getting first dibs about our nature wins. Your free copy is delivered straight to your email inbox, recapping that month’s success stories because of your generous support. Our eNewsletter will also notify you when future professional opportunities within our organization are available. And give you the heads up about upcoming partnerships and programs. Our news and notifications are designed so you can easily digest and keep a timely pulse on our organizational progress. Stay in the know about our community and nature work helping to strengthen relationships with local land, water, and wildlife. In addition to opening new outdoor career and professional development doors for you. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE.


Donating to Outdoor Afro helps us continue to reach our mission, which is to celebrate and inspire Black connections and leadership in nature. No amount is too big or small. Every contribution counts. You’re supporting our year-round programming more than you will ever know. When you donate (better yet, become a recurring donor), Outdoor Afro is able to provide our growing team of volunteer leaders – and the thousands of nature lovers and new adventurers who leaders guide in nature – with wilderness, recreation, and life-saving skills; safe, appropriate gear and equipment; free or discounted access to private outdoor spaces; and access to historical and civic information you can use to take care of the public and community spaces you love. When you donate, our Making Waves program can provide more kids and caregivers new opportunities to learn how to swim, save a loved one’s life, and leverage local resources – public swimming pools, beaches, rivers, and lakes. When you donate, we’re able to help neighborhoods expand outdoor recreational activities that become instrumental in pursuing healthier, joyful lifestyles. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.


It’s warmth that welcomes nature conversations with family and friends. Our co-branded shirt collection with Oakland-based partner Oaklandish comes with comfort for any and all outdoor adventures. The collection includes our signature short-sleeve shirts (in black and white), long-sleeve shirts (in black only), and hoodies (in black only). The fun part: The style options range from business slay to backpacker play. The bonus: Every purchase you make goes toward our charitable, not-for-profit work. CLICK HERE TO SHOP.


We’re always open to forming meaningful relationships with people, communities, initiatives, and brands that share the same values we have about reconnecting Black people and Black communities to nature. Our amazing new and deep-rooted partnerships have helped our organization elevate and innovate for the past 15 years in the outdoors. Brands like REI Co-op, KEEN, CLIF® Bar, ENO, and Smartwool have become influential collaborators to educate new audiences about the collective difference we make across the United States. Introduce our audiences and readers to new outdoor products and services that benefit our neighborhoods. To learn more about our current partnership tiers, email [email protected] today. CLICK HERE TO VIEW COLLABORATORS.


The truth is: We’re confronted by gloom-and-doom headlines daily. The good news is that Outdoor Afro produces happy clappy content monthly that will leave you feeling so fuzzy wuzzy about tapping into the outdoors and pursuing healthier lifestyles. We produce original narratives so you’re honestly informed about people, places, and things tied to our mission work. Outdoor Afro’s blog features cover personal essays; product and partner reviews; insider nature knowledge; and human interest stories that salute the pioneering paths Black people and Black communities have carved out within the outdoor industry. From big cities to small towns. Our community programs and content have traveled the globe. Piqued the interest of media mogul Oprah Winfrey to tennis icon Venus Williams – who both have participated in our network activities. Our stories reinforce the Black experience in nature from an asset-framing lens. National to international media outlets like CBS, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel Weekly, AFAR, and Essence Magazine are a few prominent publications that have highlighted our organization throughout the past decade. CLICK HERE TO ACCESS STORIES.

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide organization. Outdoor Afro's U.S. networks include nearly 100-plus volunteer leaders who guide nature activities in up to 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people annually. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people to the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro @outdoorafro and outdoorafro.org.

2023 Holiday Gear Guide: 9 Outdoor Afro-recommended stocking stuffers for next year’s adventures

Outdoor Afro has tested and provided honest commentary to a great deal of gear and equipment. Throughout nearly 15 years of organizational existence, some have been a definite no. Others aight. Then, there are the keepers. As headquarter doors close to spend more time with family and friends this winter, Outdoor Afro's gift to you are a few nature goodies that top 2023's Holiday Gear Guide. Products staff, volunteer leaders, and community participants use and share frank feedback about across U.S. neighborhoods. Check out the brands highly endorsed for 2024 adventures connected to land, water, and wildlife. This list of both legacy and new brand partners goes beyond mere social collaborations. Outdoor Afro's here-and-now partnerships are true relationships – ones valued and cultivated to help communities make informed decisions about products and services that truly benefit a range of nature lifestyles.


CLIF® Bar was born on a bike in 1990 and built with athletes in mind. The idea for a better-tasting bar was born. Today, CLIF® Bar continues to make organic, plant-based energy food. For nearly a decade, CLIF® Bar has been a proud partner of Outdoor Afro. CLIF® continues to grow its partnership with CLIF CORPS, an initiative where CLIF® Athletes donate their time and resources to support nonprofits that make the spaces where we live and play more accessible and inclusive. In 2022, professional tennis icon and CLIF® Athlete Venus Williams joined Outdoor Afro on a beach hike to experience our organizational mission: celebrate and inspire Black connections and leadership in nature. Williams and Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO Rue Mapp met for the first time and both participated in a local Outdoor Afro beach hike held in Miami. Sharing their love of the outdoors at Virginia Key Beach. CLIF® Bar and Outdoor Afro believe people should feel proud to be who they are, wherever they are — on the court, trail, field, or elsewhere.



Shop and get ready to swing away with Eagle Nest Outfitters (ENO) colorful selection of hammocks. Our organization truly believes in the quality leisure experiences this gift can also afford you, family, and friends. In fact, Outdoor Afro received the fun opportunity to co-brand a limited-edition print with ENO not once. But twice. Together, we rolled out the Kili Mapp Kili. First in 2021, which sold out. Then, in 2022 for a fall relaunched that made its way to newer backyards and road trips that year. “I wanted people to feel warmth and joy every time they’re in this hammock,” said Leandra Taylor, Outdoor Afro volunteer leader and artist behind the then in-demand design. Know that ENO designs hammocks that are portable, packable, and always adventure-ready with the latest design technology.



KEEN inspires everyone to live with no ceiling. This family-owned, values-led maker of hybrid footwear – sandals, boots, and sneakers – produces more than products. The care KEEN puts behind each shoe is a true experience that positively impacts our planet. Better known as the KEEN Effect. KEEN responsibly creates original and versatile products designed to fit the diverse lifestyles of its fans at work and play. The shoe creator has been an Outdoor Afro legacy partner since 2012. The time-honored partnership segued into a water sandal collaboration in 2021 to help bring awareness about our Making Waves program. Launched in 2019, this life-saving, water-nurturing program helps every child and their caregiver within our sphere of influence learn how to swim. This year, Outdoor Afro set an ambitious goal to teach 1,000 children and guardians water safety and basic swim techniques. Our Programs Department is happy to report: Outdoor Afro hit the splash mark because of supporters like you.



This gear has filled up Outdoor Afro volunteer leader adventure kits for years. Klean Kanteen offers colors that pop in nature, but it’s the durability for us. Especially for those longer hikes, bumpier bike rides, and multi-day camping trips across our regions. Ninety-five percent of Klean Kanteen’s products are made with recycled steel. The family- and employee-owned B Corp lives for big ideas and the boldest of moves to produce quality outdoor gear. Another legacy partner of Outdoor Afro, Klean Kanteen donates to our year-round programs. The brand also helps ensure our volunteer leaders and community participants know how to make healthy, eco-friendly choices before going outside. “We choose partners who believe in the work we’re doing and want to support that work,” said Mapp. “We prefer ‘trust partnerships’ like the one we have with Klean Kanteen, where they offer a combination of financial resources, in-kind support, and amplification of our message. This is so important to us. We truly believe that impact arises out of relationships, not just financial donations.” 



It’s our not-for-profit organization’s coziest collection. Co-branded with longtime community partner Oaklandish, our signature shop of tees, hoodies, and long-sleeve tops are comfortable conversation pieces. A year ago this month, the collection relaunched with only Outdoor Afro's most popular shirts. These shirts are gifts that keep on giving, too. Know that each purchase continues to support core year-round programming. You can also become a repeat holiday helper here. “We recognized early that our community loves our logo, and wants to represent it loud and proud,” said Mapp. “Having a merch store is a fun and accessible way for our community to continue to support our charitable work. As a longstanding collaborator, we’re ever more excited to now embark on this new chapter of collaboration with Oaklandish.” 



Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) believes a life outdoors is a life well-lived. That it’s in the wild, untamed, and natural places that people find their best selves, so its purpose is to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors for all. Since 1938, REI has been the local outdoor co-op working to help people experience the transformational power of nature. Another legacy partner for Outdoor Afro, the co-op brings top-quality gear and apparel, expert advice, rental equipment, inspiring stories of life outside, and outdoor experiences to enjoy independently or share with loved ones. In 2021, for-profit enterprise Outdoor Afro, Inc. (corporate partner of not-for-profit Outdoor Afro), came online and co-created a hike collection with the co-op that debuted September 2022. The multi-year, universal collection offers electric hike fits for all body types and neighborhood experiences.



Restock your sock collection with comfy styling options co-created by our heritage partner, and global sock and apparel brand Smartwool. Its Merino wool socks feature a Virtually Seamless™ Toe to prevent chafing; 4 Degree™ Elite Fit System to stop bunching, blisters, or sock slippage; Indestructawool™ for unmatched durability; and mesh venting for maximum breathability and moisture management. Our organization had the chance to collaborate with Smartwool on two Outdoor Afro Hike Zero Cushion Print Crew Socks in previous years. “Slice of Nature” socks in 2020 and a “Black Joy” in nature collage socks in 2022 that launched on the heels of our then second annual Juneteenth commemoration. 



Stanley products have literally traveled on oodles of American outdoor adventures for more than 100 years now. The brand has powered daily coffee breaks. Assisted meal prep days in nature. Provided the right amount of storage gear for food and beverages (on and off the road). With each passing year, Stanley continues to innovate, bringing timeless and modern solutions for outdoor exploration to backyard chill sessions. Outdoor Afro champions brands like Stanley for helping to build more sustainable communities through modern, reusable products. Through Outdoor Afro camping events that take place throughout each year, volunteer leaders, network participants, the organization’s staff, use Stanley products to make outdoor cooking creations easier to manage.



Outdoor Afro participants across our U.S. networks love a good neighborhood bike hike – whether it's in the form of leisure, mountain, or road cycling. For avid cyclists who join our bike rides, we highly recommend Yakima’s single to multiple rack options for regular riders. Why? Because we literally use them ourselves. Since 2012, our partnership with Yakima has traditionally included leadership education about how to use its gear and equipment easily and safely. Yakima affords durable designs for off-road, eBikes, and even RV travels. For “power” explorers, Yakima supplies snow, water, and basecamp equipment to prepare for 2024 Outdoor Afro trips with us as well. *Illustrations by Dajah Callen.

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide organization. Outdoor Afro's U.S. networks include nearly 100-plus volunteer leaders who guide nature activities in up to 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people annually. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people to the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro @outdoorafro and outdoorafro.org.

Outdoor Afro names Dr. Mamie A. Parker 'Lifetime Achievement' recipient

She ascended to the stage, glimmering in the night’s joy. Her maroon and silver gown sashayed with each quaint step. Bringing the memory of her late mother, Cora Parker – an Arkansas maid and tenant farmer – front stage to celebrate in the moment. Overjoyed, Dr. Mamie A. Parker squeezed Outdoor Afro friend, Founder, and CEO Rue Mapp before the award exchange. It’s the national not-for-profit’s ninth annual fundraiser, Glamp Out, held Oct. 20, 2023. Mamie, 66, recently received Outdoor Afro’s distinguished “Lifetime Achievement” award at Bloc15 in Oakland for her decades of innovative conservation work. 

Mamie pledged her outdoor career to fish and wildlife biology, as a success coach, and to later serve as a principal consultant for countless state and federal agencies. Because Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” played as her Glamp Out walk-on song, it was only customary for the wildlife conservationist to give the crowd a quick two-step and a few shimmies as she approached the podium. “Good evening,” she said with a well-grounded tone and delicately sliding her readers onto her smiling face. “I know you can do better than that. In my culture, when we call, we ask you to respond.” The crowd gladly did with louder claps, whistles, and good evenings in reply to the Wilmot, Arkansas, hometowner.

Mamie emphasized her roots to help explain her call-and-response request. It’s due to her purpose-driven travels from a sharecropping South to serving as a key presidential appointees’ house adviser with several administrations that she often delivers messages of resilience across America. Hopeful words she’s shared in different formats across world stages. Against-all-odds stories that crowds either hear for the first time or need to hear again. “Dr. Parker is a history maker,” said Mapp to Glamp Out guests. “She served as the first African American U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regional director of the 13 Northeastern states.” 

'Lifetime Achievement' recipient Dr. Mamie A. Parker and Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO Rue Mapp embrace at Glamp Out 2023. Photo by Bethanie Hines.

FWS is the oldest federal conservation agency, tracing its lineage to 1871. It’s the only agency in the federal government whose primary responsibility is the management of fish and wildlife for the American public. Notably and repeatedly, Parker entered outdoor spaces as a “first” in similar conservation and wildlife environments. Appointed by the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Parker was also elected as the inaugural Black chair of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources Commission. Mamie earned the American Fisheries Society’s highest honor – named after its first woman president – for her outstanding work promoting clean drinking water in nationwide streams. 

This presidential rank awardee also became the first Black woman to serve as Head of Fisheries in the United States. The avid angler was appointed as the special assistant to the director and later became the assistant director in the FWS headquarters located in Washington, D.C. – the first Black person to hold this title. Among other pioneering roles, Parker also held the post of the board chair of the Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries Commission. While there, the board passed a resolution that became a model for other states, changed the board name from “game” to wildlife, and protected migratory birds threatened by major bridge construction. “I always say that if it weren’t for my mother, I probably would have been kissing instead of fishing,” said Parker, chuckling with the evening’s Glamp Out audience. 

Cora raised Mamie and her ten other children in a four-room house. In an era where young women were expected to step into homemaking and caretaking roles. Cora, along with the hit song “Mercy, Mercy Me” by Motown sensation Marvin Gaye, inspired Mamie to look after Mother Nature instead. Mamie spent almost 30 years as a fish and wildlife biologist to tackle challenges like radiation and pollution because of Gaye’s lyrics. Just as Mamie looked up to her mother and the musical artist, Mapp admired Mamie’s pioneering outdoor trajectory for years. Mamie served as the first Black judge of the 2013 Federal Duck Stamp Contest held in Ohio.

Parker shares her story from a sharecropping South to changing nature narratives throughout U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and beyond. Photo by Bethanie Hines.

Ten years later, Mapp followed in this webbed footpath as an art judge as well. FWS produces the Federal Duck Stamp, which sells for $25 and raises approximately $40 million annually. Revenue from stamp sales is used to protect wetland habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge System, benefiting wildlife and contributing to people's enjoyment. Since its establishment in 1934, sales of the Federal Duck Stamp to bird watchers, outdoor enthusiasts, collectors, and hunters have helped raise more than $1.2 billion to conserve more than 6 million acres of habitat for birds and other wildlife.

This year’s contest of more than 200 submissions took place Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 in Des Moines, Iowa. For the first time in Federal Duck Stamp Contest history, the judging panel included all females: Gail Anderson, MJ Davis, Rebecca Humphries, Dr. Karen Waldrop, alternate judge Jennifer Scully, and Mapp. “Becoming a judge for the contest was an opportunity I had no idea existed for me,” said Mapp, “even though I have been purchasing the annual stamp in recent years.” Mapp did know Mamie pioneered this fun but nail-biting platform. A role that required weighing in thoughtfully to determine only one creative’s artwork on behalf of U.S. citizens. “Dr. Parker has blazed a path for people like me and organizations like Outdoor Afro,” Mapp said to nearly 140 fundraising attendees, “to step into positions of conservation policy, governance, advocacy, and influence that continue her legacy.”

Mamie’s lifetime in outdoor play and professional circles always left lasting impacts regardless of the waters trodden. She adds her Glamp Out recognition to a hefty list of avant-garde honors: The Governor of Arkansas enshrined Mamie into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame. During 2020, she became the recipient of the John L. Morris Lifetime Achievement Award, named for the founder of Bass Pro Shops. She earned The William P. Reilly (the first head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) Environmental Leadership Award. Followed by the Presidential Rank Award – the highest honor bestowed upon federal employees. Above all these credits: “Dr. Parker is a connector, friend, homegirl, wife, and mother,” Mapp said to conclude her appreciation and love for Mamie, “who never ceases to light up every room she’s in.”

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide network with 100-plus volunteer leaders in 60 cities, with network participation reaching 60,000 people. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people with the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro @outdoorafro and outdoorafro.org.

Alongside Parker, Marc Berejka, Divisional Vice President of Community, Advocacy, and Impact at REI Co-op, accepts Outdoor Afro's 2023 'Partner of the Year' recognition on REI’s behalf. Outdoor Afro volunteer leader Cornelia Sylvester presented Berejka with the award. Photo by Bethanie Hines.

Tickets on sale for Outdoor Afro's ninth annual fundraiser

Registration is now open for the nature glitz and glam of Outdoor Afro’s signature fundraiser Glamp Out. The national not-for-profit’s annual event takes place Friday, Oct. 20, at Bloc15 in Oakland’s Jack London. The ninth annual fundraising fun begins at 6 p.m. and concludes 10:30 p.m. Pacific Time. “Glamp Out is our celebratory evening where outdoor enthusiasts and national network supporters from around the country come together each year,” said Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO Rue Mapp. “We appreciate the opportunity for our community to dust off their hiking boots and dress up with us in support of our impactful programs and honor stellar leadership.”


Since 2015, Glamp Out has been Outdoor Afro’s annually anticipated fundraiser that celebrates the organization's milestones and ambitions for the coming year. This year’s theme, “Elevation,” signifies Outdoor Afro’s impact and intention for the Black American community. Throughout 2023, Outdoor Afro has continued to amplify its signature programs, strategic partnerships, and influential people with a growing, national team. Glamp Out will roll out the red carpet to help reach its 2023 organizational goals, featuring the following Bay Area speakers and performances:

HOST: Dave Clark, KTVU’s award-winning news anchor

BEATS: DJ Red Corvette, multiformat musical announcer

AUCTIONEER: Michael Tate, seasoned fundraising strategist

PERFORMERS: BET Sunday Best's Ashling Cole and accomplished saxophonist Vincent Lars

The fundraising affair also will salute Outdoor Afro nature achievements. The organization’s aim is to raise more than $200,000 in support of its year-round programs:

MAKING WAVES: Outdoor Afro’s promise is to teach every child and caregiver within its sphere of influence how to swim. The program launched in 2019 by Mapp after learning through CDC research that Black children now drown at a rate 7.6 times that of white children because of historical barriers. To date, Making Waves has awarded hundreds of "Swimmerships" (or swim lesson scholarships) around the country. The program’s ambitious 2023 aim: supporting 1,000 new swimmers in receiving local lessons.

OUTDOOR AFRO LEADERSHIP TRAINING: Now in its 11th year, this training teaches more than 100 men and women from across the United States how to guide their local communities safely and sustainably – for greater health and healing of all people and our planet. Contributions help Outdoor Afro volunteer leaders expand their training to include wilderness first-aid, recreational water safety skills, and model aspirational nature opportunities.

SIGNATURE CAPSTONE EVENTS: These experiences introduce volunteer leaders and local neighborhoods to the exploratory possibilities in nature and change the face of who can become an expeditioner. In the past, Outdoor Afro has prepared more than a dozen climbers to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro and certified 26 leaders as canoe or kayak instructors. Your support of Glamp Out helps advance the skill-building, confidence, and growth opportunities through pioneering models of adventure for the Black community.

Each year, Glamp Out welcomes more than 250 nature leaders, community supporters, cultural champions, elected officials, and celebrities. All coming together on behalf of Outdoor Afro’s mission to celebrate and inspire Black connections and leadership in nature. Glamp Out is a chance for Outdoor Afro’s national community to exercise generosity to support conservation through community-led engagement in nature.


Glamp Out purposefully recognizes individual and community contributions to Outdoor Afro – the organization’s way of upholding one of its key values of changing the narrative of who leads in outdoor spaces. The fundraiser helps continue to build lasting relationships while strengthening leadership opportunities in the outdoors. “Our programs are welcoming and multigenerational,” said Mapp, “leading to transformations both online and offline for people and the natural world.” More about Glamp Out here. Glamp Out sponsorship opportunities here

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide network with 100-plus volunteer leaders in 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people with the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro at outdoorafro.org and @outdoorafro today.

5 pieces of poolside advice for new Outdoor Afro swimmers

Calling for caregivers and kids: Register to Outdoor Afro’s Making Waves program and graduate with stronger relationships to neighborhood waterways. Since 2019, Making Waves has provided water safety, drowning prevention, and proper stroke technique for beginner poolsters. In short, swimming fundamentals. Outdoor Afro founded the nationwide program because natatorium research revealed rather shocking U.S. community news. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, Black youth ages 10 to 14 drown in swimming pools at a rate more than 7.6 times that of white children. A public health disparity due largely to decades of exclusion and segregation from beaches and public pools. “After learning of this alarming number and that it continued to grow, Outdoor Afro decided to make an impact within our sphere of influence,” said Founder and CEO Rue Mapp.

The national not-for-profit organization launched Making Waves four years ago in its hometown of Oakland to teach kids and caregivers how to swim at local pools. The program has undergone start-and-stop challenges with COVID. Huddles with identifying qualified swim providers with sufficient and welcoming instructors. Yet, the program has propelled forward. Making Waves has managed to provide lessons at no cost to nearly 400 new swimmers thus far. This year's goal: teach up to 1,000 new swimmers by the end of 2023. In collaboration with select swim providers across the United States, both kids and their caregivers take anywhere from six to eight, 30-minute lessons, valued at roughly $150 for the entire learning experience.


The program covers all lessons designed to teach safety precautions, water confidence, and the correct stroke styles. With each session, Swimmership recipients gain health and wellness benefits. Exercise that increases stamina, flexibility, and strength. Improvements in posture, coordination, and balance. Stress alleviation through peaceful and relaxing movements. Before signing up for this opportunity, carefully read these guidelines for a successful program adventure with Outdoor Afro: 

Watch Making Waves community impact story with former Outdoor Afro volunteer leader Kimberley Glover.


Aside from swimming gear like swimsuits, trunks, ear plugs, goggles, and swim caps for hair protection, pool equipment is minimal to bring to beginner lessons. Swim instructors typically provide useful buoyancy aids. RUBBER RINGS: A great help mate for getting your feet off the bottom of the pool. Fitting snug under your arms, these water rings are a first step to building confidence in the pool. ARMBANDS: Providing body support, this aid gives the advantage of freeing up your arms and legs. As your trust in the water increases, you can gradually deflate bands. FLOATS: This effective aid comes in assortments. Still, each shape offers support to practice arm and leg movements. Outdoor Afro's select providers are Red Cross certified swim instructors who know exactly what types of water devices are best to advance each individual swimmer’s performance and confidence.


When engaged in any outdoor activity, safety is the highest priority. Know and respectfully adhere to swimming pool safety rules. By doing so, you will avoid a lot of dangerous and life-threatening accidents poolside. Even while visiting other waterways such as rivers, lakes, and beaches. Remain honest with yourself about your swimming experience. Stay within your water depth until becoming an adept swimmer. Also, create enough space between you and those who are in sections of the pool like the diving area. Pools are slippery scenes, so absolutely no running. If seaside, never attempt to swim when danger flags are up. And under no circumstance swim solo. 


Not in the best of health, don’t force a Making Waves swim session. That includes ear or nose infections. It’s also not a good idea to swim immediately after eating a hearty meal, which can lead to stomach cramps. As far as cleanliness goes, take a short shower before and after swimming to prevent recreational water ailments. Come gear and equipment prepared by using only washed towels and swimwear. For toddlers, swim diapers are highly recommended to preempt major potty accidents. After every swim lesson, make sure to dry thoroughly, especially between toes. Infections like verrucas and athlete’s foot easily spread in damp conditions.


The very sight of a pool or open water intimidates some beginner swimmers. Trusting yourself in this new activity is a process. Outdoor Afro’s select swim providers teach confidence-building exercises to strengthen water relationships. Starting with relaxing. Some tasks to expect to increase poolside comfort: WALKING. Avoiding the pool’s deep end as a beginner, shoulder-deep water is a safe space to stand. Then, walking while your arms work underwater starts to develop a first-step sense of security. BLOWING BUBBLES. After getting your shoulders wet, practicing bubble blowing with your chin in the water is another foundational step toward rhythmic breathing techniques. TREADING WATER. With armbands and floats as your initial support, gradually lift and alternate your feet. You will increase your foot speed until holding yourself up without touching the bottom of the pool is achievable.


Once your beginner lessons through Making Waves complete, don’t stop swimming. There’s still more to master. After you’ve become proficient in basic strokes and standard dives, check off these next steps to increase your swimming pool confidence. NO 1. Join your local swim club. They welcome new swimmers and offer additional support. Even new swim buddies. NO. 2. Register for competitions. Once you’re swimming like a fish, enter special events to fine-tune performance. NO. 3. Sign up for advanced diving, underwater swimming, and lifesaving technique coursework. Each reinforces and advances your technique. NO. 4. Explore newer water fun. Watersports like waterski-ing, windsurfing, scuba diving, kayaking, and canoeing help expand physical capabilities and allow you to try outdoor activities you probably would have never accessed before.

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide network with 100-plus volunteer leaders in 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people with nature through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro at outdoorafro.org and @outdoorafro today.

It's Giving: Outdoor Afro's 24-hour #Give828 fundraiser

National not-for-profit Outdoor Afro observes Black Philanthropy Month via Give 8/28 fundraiser today, Aug. 28, for the first time. The fundraising day celebrates Black-led and Black-benefitting organizations like Outdoor Afro across the United States. In 24 hours, Outdoor Afro aims to raise $1,000 toward its mission to celebrate and inspire Black connections and leadership in nature. Hosted by The Young, Black & Giving Back Institute (YBGB), this national day of giving is the only giving day focused explicitly to uplift the significance of Black-guided nonprofit organizations. Give 8/28 seeks to stimulate support for organizations working at the grassroots level to empower Black communities in areas such as education, mentoring, economic empowerment, health and wellness, and policy advocacy.


Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people and Black communities to land, water, and wildlife through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Annually, the organization selects and trains more than 100 volunteer leaders who guide their local communities in outdoor activities – like hiking, biking, gardening, fishing, camping, skiing, and more – safely and sustainably. Give 8/28 takes place during Black Philanthropy Month and commemorates multiple historical landmarks in Black Americans’ march toward freedom:

Aug. 28, 1945: Major League Baseball President Branch Rickey met with Jackie Robinson to tell Robinson that he was integrating the Majors.

Aug. 28, 2005: Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. The storm, which devastated New Orleans, disproportionately impacted many of the city’s Black residents.

Aug. 28, 2020: Chadwick Boseman, actor and originator of the modern "Black Panther" character, T’Challa, passed away.

The excessive impacts of experiences such as COVID, gun violence, inflation, and social injustice that Black people have faced and continue to live through illustrate the significant need for resources within Black communities. YBGB Institute Founder Ebonie Johnson Cooper established Give 8/28 in 2018 with 114 participating nonprofits. Each collectively raised $12,700. Every year, Give 8/28 partners with crowdfunding platform Mightcause to provide an infrastructure for the online giving day. In 2020 and 2021, Give 8/28 raised more than $328,000 for more than 720 Black-led and Black-benefitting organizations with support from 3,916 donors.

Last year, it raised $252,629 from 1,702 individual donors. Like the YBGB Institute, Outdoor Afro cultivated its national community online. For the past 14 years now, the nature organization has been on the ground, ensuring neighborhoods are equipped with Black joy and healing opportunities by simply going outside with one of its nationwide networks here


ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide network with 100-plus volunteer leaders in 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people with the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro at outdoorafro.org and @outdoorafro today.